Playing Santa

‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la la la la.

Demonstrate our great folly, fa la la la la la la la la.

Ah, Christmas.  Where did the magic go?  The days when I used to agonize over the perfect gift, going store to store to store–returning home frustrated and desperately in need of a nap.  I would put up decorations, wrap every gift with homemade bows.  And I always, always sent Christmas cards.

Then, the circle of friends with whom I exchanged Christmas gifts started to shrink.  As we grew older, there were fewer things we wouldn’t just buy for ourselves if we wanted them.  Besides the occasional bottle of wine in a reusable, decorative bag, we were down to just exchanging gifts with family.

Then, my family had what I like to think of as the “epiphany Christmas.”  We realized that we didn’t know what to get each other and it was silly, as adults to be making lists.  We called a truce on gift buying and agreed just to get the kids gifts.  This simplified shopping and allowed us to focus on the boys, who really made Christmas fun.

But then, my nephews seemed to lose their enthusiasm.  They used to try to stay awake all night so they could catch Santa; now they sleep later and later on Christmas morning.  They used to carefully open each toy, set it aside and play with the box for so long that we’d have to remind them to open the next gift if we wanted to finish in time for lunch.  Now, gift opening barely lasts a half an hour.  And their wish lists get shorter each year.  Until, finally, the youngest stop producing them all together, preferring to be “surprised.”

I have to agree that wish lists feel like cheating.  There’s something really special about a gift that says someone was paying attention to the things you’re interested in or, even better, found the perfect symbol of something special between the two of you.  I love giving gifts when I know I thought of something only I could have thought of and only the receiver can appreciate.  Even if it’s a silly, cheap gift, when it feels like the exact right gift, it really is magical.

The problem is it’s impossible to think of that perfect gift for everyone I know (and remember what it was).  In fact, if I don’t see someone regularly, the probability that I’ll have any clue as to what to give them is so small that it depresses me.  The thought that I know so little about what my father, step mother, brother, sister-in-law, nephews, friends, etc have and don’t have, need and don’t need, want and don’t want serves to remind me that I haven’t been paying enough attention.

Perhaps that will be my New Year’s Resolution–to know the people I love well enough to think of the perfect gift for each of them.